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Chinese Scientific Advancement

By Anatoly Karlin

Commenter Polish Perspective draws attention to a startling new statistic:

Total spending on R&D in China (as a percentage of GDP) more than doubled from 0.9% in 2000 to 2.1% in 2016… China’s share of high-impact academic publications (the top 0.1% of papers in Scopus, which rates by citations) has grown, from less than 1% in 1997 to about 20% in 2016.

In my 2016 longread, I pointed out that China was converging with America on a broad range of hi-tech economy indicators.

this essay was first posted HERE

Now yes, Chinese papers have a reputation for shoddiness, being worse on average than Western ones, but absolute values do matter, and quality is rapidly improving anyway.

Incidentally, this is confirmed by China’s performance on Nature’s WFC index, where it rose from 24% of the US level in 2013 to 40% in 2016, and 46% as of just the Oct 2016-Sep 2017 period.

Clearly it is well on the road to becoming a global innovation power, in addition to its already extant strengths in basic manufacturing.

Note that this will not be evident in Nobel Prize statistics until the middle of the century, since they now have a 20-30 year lag time (the Japanese, for instance, only started winning substantial numbers of them from around 2000).

The most interesting question is whether China will converge to Japan/Korea’s level of per capita elite scientific output, or go on to hurtle past them to the Anglo/Germanic level.

If the former, it will still end up the world’s premier scientific power, with around 50% higher Science Point production than the US.

If the latter, its scientific dominance will be commensurate to its demographic preponderance, and as complete as its economic (and probable military) dominance.

Incidentally, Russia is a complete failure on these metrics – it is considerably less productive than a high-functioning small country like Switzerland.